Media and mirror neurons


“Whoever controls the media, controls the mind”

― Jim Morrison

The miracle of mirror neurons
I talk about the importance of mirror neurons, because I have come across the knowledge of how much we learn by watching others. Of course, when I read this fact, I was at first fascinated, then petrified. Fascinated because of how awesome our mind is, and the ability of the brain to be able to learn just through observation. Petrified, because I then realized that if we learn by watching others, then we learn by watching what is on the media, and what is on the media is very scary stuff. We live in a culture that thrives on sexual and violent imagery for entertainment, and it makes me wonder how much of this visual stimulation is affecting the way we see the world. Our we learning things without even realizing we are learning things? In this paper, I hope to explain a little of what is going on with our mirror neurons.

What exactly are mirror neurons?
Simply put, a mirror neuron is a neuron that activates mutually when an animal performs and thus when an animal witnesses the same feat completed by another. I say animal, because humans are not the only species that do this. It is an important survival mechanism. Many animals learn by watching, and doing. Many animals are taught important skills. For example, young lions will watch their mother hunt, so they may learn to hunt as well. Not only will they watch her hunt, but then they will mimic what she was doing. The young cubs’ neurons will be firing on both the watching and the doing, so they will have the best success of survival.

The miracle of mirror neurons continued
Another reason why in our species mirror neurons are so amazing, is precisely the reason why we are so different than other animals. We are built one way, and we live life completely different than what we are built for. Let me illustrate, I have a body that is made for hunting and gathering, and I have primal instincts that have been utilized for hundreds and thousands of years. Society on the other hand, follows a completely different paradigm. So, I must live against many of my instincts, almost in a foreign world, something that goes against all of our natural biology. This feat, would be impossible, unless it was for the miracle of mirror neurons. How could I even fathom driving an automobile, working on computers, and reading books if it was not for this incredible skill.

The problem with mirror neurons, and the media
The number one video game in America in 2010, was Call of Duty: Black Ops. It sold over 26.2 million copies. So what is the big deal about that? Well, Call of Duty is a video game that displays horrific scenes of violence, and glorifies war. It creates a me vs. you, black and white thinking. The underlying message is that, violence makes you a hero, and killing others is a good way to solve problems. It would be ridiculous to think that those messages do not activate our mirror neurons, and is teaching us through both observation and action. There is a common phrase in the news media, “if it bleeds it leads.” So what do they mean by this? It is simple, violence creates ratings, and we have a system that thrives on ratings. So what this means is that we are a country that is fed fear on a daily basis, and this fear is being processed through our mirror neurons, and we are learning to be afraid of our very neighbors. Why is the media doing this? I have theories. A lot of television shows and movies are pumped with sexual stimulation and violence. Shows like Braking Bad, The Living Dead, and just about every block-buster movie hit there is, they all have extreme violence. Violence, is not doubt, entertaining, but unfortunately our mirror neurons are processing all of this, and we are learning through this ferocious medium. I believe, especially with those without a sound mind, it may get harder to distinguish imagination from reality.

So, what to do….
It is time to change the channel to things that we may benefit from learning, or just turn off the television itself. People can start focusing on things that they admire, and want to achieve themselves. For example, if I want to be a more optimistic, and happy individual, then I need to observe and do things that are more optimistic and happy. It may seem like a simplified solution, but sometimes the simplest solutions are the best.


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